Personal Web Technologies, LLC v. Apple, Inc., No. 16-1174 (Fed. Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Personal Web’s patent describes and claims methods (or devices for carrying out methods) of locating data and controlling access by giving a data file a substantially unique “True Name” that depends on its content. The patent describes generating a True Name using mathematical algorithms (hash functions) that use a file’s contents to generate a small-size identifier. It calls for comparing that name with values in a network, determining whether a user is authorized to access the data, and providing or denying access based on that determination. Apple petitioned for inter partes review, arguing unpatentability under 35 U.S.C. 103, for obviousness based on a combination of one reference that focuses on a system for backing up or restoring data and one that focuses on a system for managing rights to access data. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board agreed with Apple. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s claim construction of “content-dependent name,” “content-based identifier,” and “digital identifier,” but vacated the obviousness determination because the Board did not adequately support its findings that the prior art disclosed all elements of the challenged claims and that a relevant skilled artisan would have had a motivation to combine the references to produce the claimed inventions with a reasonable expectation of success.